January 2008 Issue of Wines & Vines
Wines & Vines Special Report
Vintage 2007: North America's growing regions
A pleasantly dry day at Domaine Serene during the extended and typically damper Oregon harvest.
Though yields were down in almost every reporting area, most growers were delighted with the quality of the grapes they could harvest, and new vines continue to be planted almost everywhere to meet soaring demand for locally grown and produced wines.
Our reports come from volunteer local experts: extension agents, associations and growers. We hope you will find them useful. If your area was not included, and you'd like to contribute next year, please e-mail email@example.com, and we'll put you on the list next November.
By Elizabeth Green Merwin
Clarksburg Wine Growers Association
• New wineries and vineyards are being established
• Despite almost ideal growing conditions, yields down for many varieties
Moderate spring and summer temperatures led to a successful harvest in the Clarksburg appellation. An August heat spell ripened most whites at the same time, leading to some heartburn for our growers and the wineries. Cool weather followed, extending hang time, balancing the physical and physiological ripening of the fruit, and delaying harvest. Although predicted to be higher than usual this year, yields were down in most varieties including Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, increasing the demand for these varieties toward the end of harvest.
Winter was unusually cold and dry, negatively affecting growth and yields in certain varieties, especially Pinot Gris. Some new plantings were also adversely affected. Spring was average, with little rain. Bud break was early for most varieties, and veraison occurred as usual. Unusually low mildew pressure in the appellation resulted in very clean fruit throughout the season.
For more information on the Clarksburg appellation, please visit clarksburgwinegrowers.com.
LAKE AND MENDOCINO COUNTIES
By Glenn McGourty
Farm Advisor, UCCE
- Low humidity meant low mildew and pest pressure; clean fruit at crush
- Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc crops reduced by about 20%
Late March and early April started to warm, which brought about early bud break, but a mid-April cool-down brought frosty nights. Many growers frost protected for 5-10 nights. Only vineyards in low areas were affected. Low humidity and clear nights made the beginning of the growing season dicey: Water for sprinkler frost protection was low in some ponds. Water supplies were tight for many growers, and some wells went dry late in the season.
Bloom occurred almost a week before normal. Crop set was average in most vineyards. Some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir growers experienced very light crops and poor foliar growth, perhaps due to bud injury from low winter temperatures.
Low humidity throughout the season meant very little powdery mildew and bunch rot pressure. Except for a warm spell around July 4, temperatures were moderate. Vines were not stressed, and there was little sunburn or shrivel on fruit. Insect and mite pests were not a problem in most vineyards.
The result was one of the cleanest crops in recent memory. Winemakers were pleased with fruit quality. Vines had balanced canopies; fruit typically had small berries and good color. At first, it looked like harvest would be accelerated. Many Sauvignon Blanc vineyards had lighter than normal crops by 20%, and began to ripen in some Lake County vineyards in mid-August.
By the first week of September, most wineries were doing considerable crushing. Chardonnay also was down in volume in the Ukiah Valley by almost 20% in many vineyards. By mid-September, most of the Chardonnay and white grape harvest was finished. Vineyards in eastern Lake County in Long Valley and High Valley ripened well, and many growers had their harvests completed by the third week of September.
Then the weather turned cloudy and cool. Temperatures dropped from the 90s to the low 70s Fahrenheit. Wineries got a break after the rapid pace of white fruit harvest. Red fruit took its time to ripen. Significant rain fell on Oct. 9 and 10, for conditions similar to a European harvest. Many vines began turning color early, and fruit ripened at lower sugar levels, with mature brown stems and seeds. Winemakers were very happy with flavors.
Cabernet Sauvignon from the Red Hills came in light but well ripened. In Anderson Valley, Pinot Noir harvest was light and late. Cluster counts seemed normal, but fruit set was lighter than usual, and berry size was very small. Zinfandel and Petite Sirah harvest in Redwood Valley and other high elevation areas was late, and even re ceived some rain.
Most growers easily made sugars, and rot was minimal. Harvest progressed at a relatively easy pace, and most wineries had a low-stress crush. Overall, winemakers are encouraged by the vintage, as the wines seem to have good acidity, ripeness and color. Market conditions improved for most winegrapes, although a few growers had problems selling all of their fruit. Some loads went for very low prices, which was unfortunate given the overall quality.
With more than 20 wineries, and increased sales, Lake County has formed a winery association. Their strength continues to be Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, but they are also producing wines from Mediterranean varieties including Syrah, Tempranillo, Barbera, Viognier, Roussanne, and others.
The Mendocino Winegrape and Wine Commission completed a busy first year marketing its image, showing wines and educating growers. The membership is deeply involved in many projects, and there is avid participation and interest in numerous events.
If the economy remains healthy, 2008 could be a good year for the winegrowing business in Lake and Mendocino counties. Grape buyers are once again calling growers! The demand for organic winegrapes and wine, a regional specialty, is growing. Wine in process seems to be in balance between supply and demand at most wineries.
Despite delayed bud break and an exceptionally dry growing season, this vineyard in the Clements Hills sub-appellation of Lodi in San Joaquin Valley seemed off to a healthy start.
By K.C. Pomering
Madera Vintners Association/Madera Wine Trail
- Two new wineries opened
- Small vineyards have been planted to meet demand
With the growing demand for high quality grapes from Madera County vines, both Vineyard 208 and Birdstone Winery put in small vineyards this year. Vineyard 208 planted Italian-style varietals; Birdstone planted Muscat Canelli and Tempranillo.
The Madera Vintners Association expects continued sales growth with the expanding interest in the wines of the San Joaquin Valley and the Madera Wine Trail. Learn more about the association and its wine trail at maderavintners.com.
By Maxwell Norton
Farm Advisor, UCCE
- An uneventful growing season, with no pest pressure
- New plantings are competing for acreage with other crops
All growers were able to sell their crops this year. Acreage is stable, with some new plantings. Almonds and pistachios are competing for land, as there has been much interest in these crops for the last few years. There is considerable competition for land for forage crops as well.
MONTEREY, SAN BENITO AND SANTA CRUZ COUNTIES
By Larry Bettiga
Viticulture Advisor, UCCE
- January freeze reduced yields by 5% to 30%
- Harvest started early, but extended to November
Most of the growing season had mild temperatures. After bloom, it was apparent that both cluster and berry size would be smaller and would reduce the yield potential for the 2007 crop. As the fruit began to ripen, early varieties were somewhat late and the more typical spread in varietal maturity was compressed. Harvest did start early, with the warmer interior areas beginning to pick in late August. A warming trend accelerated the harvest, and gave the false sense of a quick harvest season. A cooling trend in mid-September significantly slowed the harvest, and extended picking until early November.
Crop was variable by variety and by vineyard location. In general, most vineyards were down from average by 5% to 30%. Vineyards that had experienced stunting due to cold winter temperatures were the most impacted by lower yields. Quality potential is high, due to the smaller berry size, good color development and absence of defects.
Pest pressure from mildew and insects during most of the growing season was low and caused few production problems. After the fall rains, there was some increase in botrytis bunch rot pressure. Fortunately, in most of these sites the fruit was ripe and was harvested before it became a quality concern.
Replanting and grafting of existing vineyards has continued to line up the varietal composition of local vineyards with winery demand. New vineyard development has been more limited, but is occurring as growers can negotiate profitable growing contracts.
By Ed Weber
Viticulture Farm Advisor, UCCE
- A dry winter created water shortages, but hastened vine development
- Except for Merlot, yields for most vari eties were down 15-20%
Bud break occurred in March and April; frost protection was used on only a few cold nights. Dry soils hastened vine development, leading to early bloom dates in May.
Summer conditions were mild, and harvest began one or two weeks earlier than normal.
Dry soil conditions allowed growers to complete their spring activities with few complications. Powdery mildew was not a major problem, and there were few other disease or pest issues. The biggest challenge was managing irrigation for growers with limited water supplies.
A hot spell in late August and early September accelerated completion of the Sauvignon Blanc and sparkling wine harvests, and raised sugar levels in red varieties. Merlot and Syrah harvests began in early September. Chardonnay was harvested in mid- to late September, and most Cabernet was picked in the first two weeks in October. Mid-October rainfall made for some wet picking conditions. Botrytis bunch rot developed in some Cabernet vineyards that were not picked until the end of October.
Yields for most varieties were 15-20% lower than anticipated, with some vineyards down by as much as 30%. Reduced berry size accounted for most of the reduction, likely due to the dry spring. Merlot was an exception, with normal yields in most vineyards.
The light brown apple moth was identified for the first time in North America in 2007, including two finds in Napa County, but has not yet migrated into vineyard production areas. Western grapeleaf skeletonizer was found in one Napa County vineyard. Vine mealybug continues to be a significant problem throughout Napa County, especially in the Carneros region. Glassy-winged sharpshooters are still absent from Napa County. Spread of leafroll virus by grape mealybugs is an emerging issue, as more vineyards become impacted.
SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY
By Paul S. Verdegaal
Farm Advisor, UCCE
- A very dry year kept pest and disease pressure down
- Despite lower than average yields, grape prices remain low
Cluster counts were well above normal in early spring, but low soil moisture and moderate temperatures seemed to reduce cluster size and set, along with berry size. Conditions for high quality came at a grower cost of below average yields for most varieties and blocks, especially older vines for red Zinfandel programs. The upside was excellent quality, and there was absolutely no bunch rot in Zinfandel, Petite Sirah or just about any other variety or site.
Harvest began about on time. It started fast, but at a good pace, with sugar accumulation very steady, until mid-September. Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc were about average in yields. Most varieties and blocks were slightly below average, except for Merlot, which is still in oversupply.
After a brief hot spell in early September, conditions slowed ripening to the point that some blocks went "backwards" at times. Colors were excellent, but fruit flavors came on slow and hang time was needed, through September and October. That drew out the harvest to the third week in October.
Grape prices didn't improve, and low offers were still $100 to $200 per ton for fruit not covered by contracts. The price range continues to be large; depending on fruit destination (variety, wine program and winery). Many growers were resigned to be in the $250 to $350 per ton range, while yields were 10% to 20% lower than long-term averages. There was little, if any, unharvested fruit, but many growers still suffered. The need for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris/Grigio, along with some Riesling, encouraged some grafting and even some replanting. Petite Sirah and Tempranillo demand continued to grow, along with interest in many Rhône, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian varieties.
As in 2006, this was a mixed and long season: a bad year for some and good for others. Costs are still well above grower returns on a long-term basis. The all-too-familiar challenges remain from increasing regulations, less labor availability and more consolidation at the producer, wholesale and retail levels. By nature and necessity, growers remain optimistic for 2008 and beyond.
SAN LUIS OBISPO AND SANTA BARBARA COUNTIES
By Mark Battany
Farm Advisor, UCCE
- Frigid, dry weather delayed bud break and reduced canopy growth
- Wells went dry, limiting irrigation water
Bud break was later than normal by two to four weeks for most vineyards. Exceptionally delayed and uneven early growth was noted for vines on 110R and 101-14 rootstocks. Overall canopy growth was notably reduced in most vineyards.
The exceptionally dry conditions led to a significant number of irrigation wells going dry during the summer peak irrigation period, forcing many growers to make do with very limited irrigation. Looking forward, the potential for continued lack of rainfall is one of the most significant concerns for winegrape production in the entire region.
Summer growing temperatures were fairly moderate, with the season's peak temperatures occurring during the first week of September. This brief heat spell was followed by several weeks of unusually cool weather from mid-September to mid-October, delaying ripening significantly and creating a long pause in harvest activity for many operations. Warmer weather returned later in October, leading to a resurgence of harvest. Most inland vineyards had been picked by the end of October, while some coastal vineyards were still being harvested as late as mid-November.
Yields were low to average, with quality reported as being exceptionally good overall.
Considerable new hillside acreage continues to be developed in the Paso Robles Westside and the Santa Rita Hills areas.
By Rhonda J. Smith
UC Cooperative Extension
- Small berries resulted in lighter cluster weights and reduced tonnage
- Higher than previous grape mealybug infestations were reported
Ideal weather conditions in mid-August continued through the first week of September, and coupled with a lighter crop caused many vineyards to be harvested early and growers to anticipate a short season. Then cool temperatures slowed the pace, with about half the acreage remaining. Picking gradually increased in late September, dodging a few showers, and then wet weather beginning Oct. 10 inspired a consistent flow of fruit into wineries. In some growing regions, the total rainfall in September and October exceeded 3 inches, yet most growers managed to avoid significant crop loss from botrytis.
January 2007 had under an inch of rain, and mid-month low temperatures in the 20s Fahrenheit. Some vineyards had mild winter injury, with delayed or erratic bud break; however very few vines lost buds. More than 2 inches of rain fell in mid-April, the last significant precipitation prior to harvest. Temperatures were mostly moderate, with a warm period in late June/early July. A few hillside vineyards lost their water supply when springs and wells ran dry.
Vineyard irrigation strategies were the focus of the Sonoma County Water Agency, which was ordered by the state Water Resources Control Board to reduce the amount of water removed from Lake Mendocino by 15% between July 1 and Oct. 28, compared to the same period in 2004. This ensured adequate flow in the Russian River for the fall Chinook salmon run.
Moderate temperatures resulted in long stretches of days with a moderate to high powdery mildew risk index; however, few sites had control problems. Mite pressure was low, but grape mealybug populations were higher in some vineyards than previously.
By Peter Mitham
• November 2006 cold snap damaged some Okanagan vines
• Okanagan vineyard prices topped $200,000/acre
There were no firm estimates available at press time, but many British Columbia grapegrowers were reporting a crop of even quality, despite an early frost the preceding winter that damaged some vines.
An early cold snap that sent temperatures to near 0°F at the end of November 2006 made for an early ice wine harvest, but also damaged vines in some parts of the Okanagan Valley.
Growers at Sandhill Estate and other vineyards in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley weren't complaining: their harvest was comparable to last year's.
The B.C. Wine Institute reports a total of 464 vineyards throughout the province, accounting for a total acreage approaching 7,500 acres. The cost of an acre of vineyard has increased, however, with land values topping $200,000 per acre in the south Okanagan.
The costs aren't discouraging new entrants to the industry, however, with the number of wineries rising to 136 this year from 131 in 2006.
Perhaps the most significant regulatory change for wineries this year was the provincial government's establishment of a framework allowing minimum standards for B.C. wines, and guidelines for how those wines are described to consumers. The regulations put the onus on wineries to ensure that what they're selling is what they claim it is.
The new standard is overseen by the B.C. Wine Authority, which will audit wineries every three years. The B.C. Wine Institute will continue to oversee the marketing and promotion of premium B.C. wines, with annual sales currently totaling about $151.2 million.
By Mariko Clark
Oregon Wine Board
- Ideal conditions prevailed until late September rains
- Yields were near normal or higher; quality excellent
"A highly variable growing season across the state provided good ripening conditions without heat extremes," said Dr. Greg Jones, climatologist and professor at Southern Oregon University. "Fruit composition by early September was ideal in many regions. The mid-September cool-down and rain caused many to make choices of either harvesting quickly or waiting it out. Cool, wet conditions are not unheard of for Oregon; they just came 30 days earlier than in recent years. Fruit composition was generally lower in sugar, higher in acid, with balanced pH and great flavors. Yields appear to be near normal to slightly above normal. This year may have shown us that all heat is not necessarily good heat."
Careful crop load management allowed fruit to fully ripen, despite the cool temperatures. Strict vineyard management practices enabled the vines and the grapes to withstand mildew pressure.
"We needed to spray more and spend much more on farming," said Sam Tannahill, owner/winemaker for A to Z Wineworks, Rex Hill and Francis Tannahill, who farms 200 acres in the Willamette Valley and sources fruit from 90 vineyards throughout the state. "We did need to sort a little more, but we saw surprisingly little rot."
Some say it's a grower's year, where meticulous thinning, canopy management and spray routines helped fruit left hanging on the vine to weather the storms. Others maintain it's a winemaker's year, where the most experienced and agile artists will be able to take the fruit given to them by Mother Nature and craft some outstanding wines.
By Dr. Mercy Olmstead
Extension Viticulture Specialist
Washington State University
- Newly bearing vineyards contributed to record harvest, though tonnage per acre was down
- A cool autumn provided an extended ripening period
Weather surrounding the bloom period and fruit set was ideal, with warm temperatures leading into May and June. In some locations, some minor frost damage was reported, but in most cases, this only led to an inconsequential decrease in tonnage.
Summer temperatures were average according to our long-term data, with around 2,500 growing degree-days recorded at WSU-Prosser. Warmer regions of Washington state recorded cumulative growing degree-days in the upper 2,700-2,900 range.
Cooler temperatures after Labor Day resulted in one of the best ripening periods on record. This also helped growers manage their harvests from a logistical standpoint, providing for adequate tank space in most wineries and processing plants. From all accounts, grape quality was excellent, with average soluble sugars and good acid balance.
Winegrape acreage is slowly expanding in the state, with a number of smaller vineyards coming into bearing and contributing to the overall tonnage this year. Juice grape acreage is holding steady at approximately 25,000 acres.
According to the Washington Wine Commission, the state's wine industry provides about 14,000 full-time jobs and contributes more than $3 billion annually to the state's economy. In 2006, more than 7 million cases of wine were made in Washington, worth about $685 million in retail sales. Currently, there are more than 530 wineries in the state, with increased expansion driving the planting of new vineyard acres.
By Dr. Horst Caspari
Colorado State University
• Fall and spring cold reduced harvest by 50%
• Acreage grew by 50-60 acres in 2007
Timing of bud break was average. Above-average temperatures during most of the season, combined with a light crop, resulted in an early start of harvest. October was slightly cooler than average, resulting in close to normal harvest dates for late varieties. All grapes were picked at optimum maturity prior to killing frosts, and winemakers generally report excellent quality. Due to the cold damage, there was a shortage of Colorado grapes.
Riesling continued to be the variety in hot demand, as state production is well behind winery demands. Grape prices are expected to remain more or less unchanged. Over the past 10 years, Colorado's vineyard area has expanded at about 50-60 acres per year, and similar acreage was planted in 2007.
A Colorado vineyard thrives in the West Elks AVA. Colorado vineyards continue to in crease by 50-60 acres per year, and Riesling is in hot demand.
The potential for grape and wine production continues to increase with the expansion of vineyard area. As always, weather conditions during fall, winter and spring--more than anything else--will ultimately decide the size of Colorado's 2008 crop.
For the latest information on Colorado's vineyards, including area and production statistics, visit welcome.colostate.edu or coloradowine.com for information on our wineries.
By Bruce Bordelon, Ph.D.
- Production 60% of normal due to Easter freeze
- Early harvest prevented lady beetle damage
The summer months were hot and dry. Growing degree-day accumulation was about 25% above average. Rainfall was about 75% of normal in most areas, but less than 50% of normal in southeast Indiana. Grape disease pressure was minimal, due to the dry conditions. Powdery mildew was the only disease of any concern.
Harvest dates were about normal for early grape varieties, but the season was compressed, with many of the mid- and late season varieties harvested one to two weeks earlier than normal. The multi-colored Asian lady beetle was not a problem this season, because the early harvest occurred before beetles began to move into grapes.
Fruit quality was excellent overall. The 2006-07 winter was slightly warmer than normal, and winter injury was minor. Coldest temperatures occurred in early to mid-February, and ranged from 0°F in the southern half to -12°F in northern Indiana.
Demand for Indiana-grown grapes continues to outpace supply, which has led to a modest increase in acreage. Most of the new plantings have been in the premium hybrids, but some vinifera varieties are being produced on the best sites. Indiana currently has 36 wineries, with several expected to open in the near future.
Indiana wine sales exceeded 700,000 gallons in 2006. Welcoming more than 1 million visitors each year, the Indiana wine industry contributes more than $34 million to the state's economy, and is the state's No. 1 agri-tourism destination. For additional information about the Indiana wine industry, please visit indianawines.org.
By David Creighton
Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council
- Mild winter, dry summer yielded production totals about average, quality excellent
- Demand high; Riesling production up 58% in three years; Sauvignon Blanc plantings going in
The summer was warmer than average--about 10% warmer in the southwest (Lake Michigan Shore and Fennville AVAs), and up to 20% more heat accumulation in the northwest (Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula AVAs). Southwest wineries had average to above average yields, while northwest wineries saw slightly below average yields. Nearly all continue to struggle with supply of some varieties, and smaller wineries are often out of stock before the next vintage.
Veraison was early, and a mild fall produced an early and leisurely harvest of fully ripe and extremely healthy grapes. After proclaiming 2005 to be the best vintage ever, winemakers are now saying that 2007 looks at least as good. Acid levels were low for some white varieties.
New vineyards continue to come online. Riesling, in particular, showed a 58% increase in the last three years. Winegrapes now occupy about 1,800 acres (roughly two-thirds vinifera and most of the rest hybrids).
A couple of new varieties are showing up. The first group of three varietal Syrahs was entered in the state competition, winning double gold, gold and silver medals; and several southwest wineries have planted Sauvignon Blanc. At least three new wineries are scheduled to open in spring of 2008, pushing the total wineries using predominantly Michigan-grown fruit to well over 50.
By Andy Allen
Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology
University of Missouri--Columbia
- Easter "massacre" greatly reduced crop potential
- Dry summer reduced bunch rot; increased animal damage
The remainder of the spring was mild, with good seasonal rainfall. This, however, led to problems with phomopsis and anthracnose. In late June/early July, the weather turned hot and very dry, with extended drought conditions in much of the state. New and non-irrigated vineyards suffered reduced vine growth under the dry conditions.
A benefit was a decrease in summer bunch rot potential. Animal damage was much higher than normal, however, because of reduced food supply in the woodlands due to the freeze. Harvest was one to two weeks earlier than normal in most areas, due to the reduced crop size.
Grape demand, which has been increasing over the last several years, was not met this year due to the freeze. New vineyards continue to be established every year, and more were planted in 2007. Most new plantings have involved the native cultivar Norton, the French-American hybrid cultivars Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc and Vignoles, and American hybrids: Chardonel, Traminette and the recently released Valvin Muscat from Cornell University. In 2007, the number of wineries increased from 56 to 73.
Submitted by Members of New Mexico Wine Growers Association
New Mexico Wineries, Inc.
- July rains promoted mildew; harvest late
Yield was average, but quality was better. There were lower yields of Syrah, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Ugni Blanc.
We planted 60 acres Malvasia, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Muscat Orange, Black Muscat, Muscat Canelli and Muscat Alexandria.
La Viña Winery
La Union, N.M.
- Record production, average quality
Summer temperatures were about normal, and our late-harvested varieties finished Oct. 13, which is normal at La Viña. Total tonnage was 160, and the quality was average, although some varieties had lower quality due to over-production. Overall, it was an excellent vintage with record production.
By Ed Hellman
Texas Cooperative Extension
- April freeze, summer rains caused widespread losses
- Acreage grew 5-15%; same predicted for 2008
Summer brought above average rainfall throughout the state, long periods of persistent rains in the Hill Country, and localized very heavy rainfall in portions of the Hill Country and the Gulf Coast. Abundant rain stimulated highly vigorous canopies, increased disease problems, and interfered with spray applications. Downy mildew was problematic in North Texas, the Hill Country and the Gulf Coast regions, resulting in partial defoliation where persistent rains precluded timely fungicide applications. Heavy rainfall before harvest caused berry splitting and subsequent rot, especially on white grape varieties in the Hill Country and Gulf Coast.
Rainfall, cooler temperatures, and cloudy weather led to harvest delays of as much as a month in all regions. Fruit quality ranged from fair to very good; quality was especially high for late season red varieties in West Texas.
The Texas wine industry continues its rapid growth, with more than 120 wineries now operating. Continued growth in 2008 and beyond is expected. Many established wineries have also increased production over the past few years, some very significantly. Grape acreage continues to lag behind demand, although new acres increased by 5-15% in 2007; plans are similar for 2008. Grape prices remain stable and strong in response to high demand.
By Jack Johnston
Maryl and Grape Growers Association
• Dry summer brought low yields, high quality
• Heavy canopies required constant attention
The subsequent drought conditions have been the second worst on record, but predictably the grape crop benefited significantly. Sugars and pHs were up, acids down and disease pressures low. The downside of these otherwise ideal conditions was quantity. Crop levels dropped to nearly half in many vineyards.
Pest problems were largely negligible. Nary a bird to be seen--many growers didn't even bother to erect the usual deterrents. The Japanese beetle population was nearly as sparse as the birds, as were flea beetles, Asian lady beetles, grape berry moths and to a lesser extent, deer.
Although crop loads were light, canopies were heavy, requiring constant shoot thinning, hedging and removal of laterals and leaves. Weeds were not the problem they have been in the past few years.
The local wine industry continues to thrive, due largely to increased government support. Wineries report a 19.2% increase in sales over 2006. A number of wine trails are in the planning stage to increase exposure and promote tourism. The University of Maryland cooperative extension service has acquired the services of a fruit pathologist with a specialty in grape production.
A recent vineyard survey reported approximately 150 acres of non-winery commercial vines currently in production throughout the state, plus 240 acres belonging to the 29 wineries. Total amount grown and bought by the wineries is 680 tons. Dominant varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay, Vidal, Seyval and Chambourcin.
Grapes benefited from extended hang time in New York's Finger Lakes district, due to dry conditions and low disease and pest pressure.
By Hans Walter-Peterson
Viticulture Extension Specialist
Finger Lakes Grape Program
Cornell Cooperative Extension
- Warm dry summer reduced pest pressure
- Optimal ripening conditions extended hang times
2007 was a dry year in the Finger Lakes, with below average rainfall every month from May through October. Mild drought symptoms could be found in portions of many vineyards, but for the most part did not adversely affect vine health or fruit quality. A few vineyards along northern Seneca and Keuka Lakes, however, did show symptoms of moderate to severe water stress later in the season. Temperatures during the growing season were only slightly above average until veraison. Temperatures in September and October were significantly above normal, providing almost optimal conditions during the post-veraison ripening period.
Due to the dry conditions this year, disease pressure was relatively low, which allowed growers to keep ahead of the curve with their pest management programs and keep fruit very clean until harvest. The warm and dry conditions during harvest allowed winemakers and growers to let some varieties hang longer and pick based on flavor development rather than development of rot or avoiding heavy rainfalls.
While the quality of this year's crop was very high, overall tonnage for most varieties ended up being average to slightly below average. This was primarily a result of below average berry weight, due to the low rainfall. Brix levels were higher than normal in a number of varieties ranging from Concord to Pinot Noir, while total acidity was lower almost across the board. There is the potential for very high quality wines, particularly reds, to be produced in the Finger Lakes from this year's crop.
By Alice Wise
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County
- A dry summer, followed by timely rainfall, encouraged ripening
- Reduced bird predation produced higher white grape yields
Temperatures through the season were close to long-term averages. Rainfall, however, was significantly lower than normal. From May through October, 14.5 inches fell in Riverhead, 10 inches or more below normal.
Vines thrived in the warm, dry weather, as disease pressure was more moderate than in previous seasons. Drip irrigation was used, particularly on drier vineyard sites. Dry farmed vineyards endured the drought relatively well, with only a few of the sandier sites showing signs of drought stress. Several timely rainfall s in September and October were important for canopy longevity and fruit ripening.
After a few challenging seasons, it was a pleasure and a relief to experience an easy harvest season. There were no major tropical storm systems. Wildlife, notably birds, decided to give vineyard managers a break. For the first time in many years, migrating starlings and other grape-loving birds were late in arriving to Long Island. Consequently, the constant battle with birds was almost inconsequential this harvest.
Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and other whites had minimal or no cluster rot and higher than expected yields, due to excellent berry set and reduced losses to wildlife. Reds were harvested mid-October through mid-November. Yields were on target, as growers tend to thin fruit more severely in the later ripening reds. Though inconsistent from one farm to the next, some reds required sorting to eliminate spotty infections of botrytis. Given the good yields and intensity of flavors, growers are optimistic about wine quality from this vintage. This was a season we look forward to repeating.
By Kevin Ker, Ph.D. (cand.), P.Ag.
CCOVI Brock University
KCMS Applied Research and Consulting
- Niagara season hotter and drier than ever seen
- Vines imported from France required hot water treatment
Bright sunny skies and no precipitation led to excellent fruit set. However, veraison was about 10 days later, and harvest dates for most cultivars were 7-14 days later than the 10-year average.
The Niagara region had an extremely dry and hot growing season, unlike any seen by long-time growers. Temperatures were much warmer than usual (daytime temperatures hitting the high 80s and low 90s Fahrenheit regularly) and precipitation during the key months of June through August was only about 20-25% of average, making for some delays in vine development, especially at non-irrigated locations.
Some parts of Niagara do not have access to irrigation, and yields in these areas were reduced by 20% to 30%, depending on cultivar. Southwestern Ontario, which produces about 15% to 20% of the crop, had normal to slightly above average rainfall, and average to slightly higher crops. A new wine-producing region in the eastern part of Ontario (PEC) had expected crops based on acreage and vineyard age.
Grape prices were similar to those of 2005 and 2006, due to a negotiated price scale between wineries and growers after the short crop issue of 2004.
Despite the drought-like conditions, fruit quality was excellent during harvest, with cluster weights and berry size smaller but yielding intense flavors and colors.
Several new wineries opened in 2007, and the wine trails are ever-expanding. New vineyards continue to go in, but at a much slower pace than in the previous five years. For 2007, growers who planted vines imported from France, had to agree that these specific vines would undergo hot water treatment as part of a federal importation regulation from French nurseries. Vines of domestic origin and other areas did not have the same treatment restrictions.
The fall weather was ideal for vine acclimation, with adequate moisture and moderately declining temperatures to help vines get ready for winter.
Most vineyards that practiced balanced production are in great shape, and all signs point to a potential record harvest in 2008 as more vineyards mature and reach full production potential.
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